Round Leaf Chastetree, Beach Vitex

Vitex rotundifolia L. f. (Verbenaceae) Vitex rotundifolia L. f. is an evergreen woody tree, densely covered with short hairs. Leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, broadly oblong-elliptic, 2-5 cm long by 1.5-3 cm wide, rounded or abruptly acute at the base. Inflorescence panicles are at the terminal, densely flowered, 4-7 cm long with purple corolla. Fruits are globose, 5-7 mm. Origin Native to Temperate and Tropical Asia, Australasia and Pacific. Phytoconstituents Rotundifuran, prerotundifuran, vitexilactone, previtexilactone, vitexicarpin, vitricine, vitetrifolins D-G, vitexifolins A-E, isoambreinolide and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses In Malaysia, various parts of the plants are considered panacea for illnesses ranging from headache to tuberculosis. In China, the plant has been used for the treatment of cancer. A poultice of the leaves is used to treat rheumatism, contusions, swollen testicles and as a discutient in sprains. In Indonesia, leaves have been used in medicinal baths, as a tincture or for intestinal complaints. In Papua New Guinea, sap from crushed heated leaves is diluted with water and drunk to relieve headaches. The fruits are used to expel worms and in Vietnam, a decoction of dried fruits Read more […]

From Herb to Medicine: Forms of Herbal Products

Obviously, herbal products start as plants. They make the journey from plant to medicine by being either harvested from the wild (called wild-crafting) or grown for the purpose of creating an herbal medicine. Keep in mind that many herbs are endangered in the wild from either overuse or destruction of habitat. Some of the herbs that are currently at risk in the wild include American ginseng, black cohosh, bloodroot, blue cohosh, echinacea, goldenseal, helonias root, kava kava, lady’s slipper orchid, osha, partridge berry, peyote, slippery elm, sundew, trillium bethroot, true unicorn, Venus’s flytrap, and wild yam. If you wish to work with herbs, don’t search in the wild to obtain them. Instead, create an herb garden and grow and harvest the herbs yourself. After harvesting an herb, dry it to reduce the moisture content without destroying the plant’s active chemical compounds. The herb should be dried by spreading it loosely on a rack so that air can circulate around it to prevent mold. The procedure for harvesting and preparing each herb varies with the time of year and the part of the plant that will be used for medicinal purposes. Herbs should be stored in dark glass containers with tight-fitting lids, away from Read more […]

New Zealand Medicinal Plants

Despite the small area of New Zealand, comparable with that of California, it constitutes a distinctive botanic region. Of the approximate number of two thousand species of higher plants found, 75% are endemic to the country. Many unusual plants occur and the chemical investigations conducted to date have confirmed the unique nature of the flora. In view of these facts it is surprising that only a few native plants have been commercially exploited. Several of the trees, notably Agathis australis, Dacrydium cupressinum, Podocarpus totara, P. dacrydioides, and Vitex lucens yield useful timber, but the stands of these have largely been worked out. New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax, is cultivated for its fibre which is made into ropes and matting. Kauri gum (really a fossil product) up to a value of £21 million has been exported but it is a declining article of commerce. It has been shown that useful dyestuffs can be produced from a number of plants, particularly in the genus Coprosma, but no commercial exploitation has resulted. Pharmacology is probably the most promising field for extending the use of New Zealand native plants and it should therefore be of value to have a check list of those plants reported to have Read more […]

White Deadnettle: Elusive Identity

The first difficulty is the usual one of which plant is Dioscorides’ lamium and does it correspond to Pliny or anyone else. There is an amount of dispute. Beck identifies Dioscorides’ ‘leukas’ (III 99) as deadnettle, but this is tentative, and comes with a question mark in the index against the Latin binomial. There is little description in Dioscorides’ text beyond that the one growing in mountains has wider leaves than the cultivated, is more potent and its fruit is more pungent, bitter and less tasty. Its actions are only against venoms of animals, topically or drunk. Mattioli suggests this text is obviously corrupt and several things are missing. Pliny speaks of lamium’ and, according to Dodoens of’anonium’ or ‘aononium’, which with salt will heal contusions and blows, burns and swollen glands, swellings, gout and wounds; and the white it has in its leaves will heal the sacred fires (St Anthony’s fire). The trouble is Dioscorides (IV 94) also has an entry called ‘galeopsis’, otherwise ‘galepsis’ or ‘galeobdolon’. Even the origin of the word is disputed. Mattioli criticises Fuchs’ suggestion that the name comes from galea, a helmet, saying that galea is a Latin word, not a Greek one, and the Greeks, ‘having no want Read more […]

Wormwood: Bitters

By Cullen’s time the bitters were acknowledged as a particular group of plants with specific actions. Cullen lectured on their capacities under both bitters and tonics, and he divides the bitters into hot and cold, amara calida and amara frigida, wormwood, of course counting among the calida. Bitters are seldom simple, he says, but combined with other qualities. More recently Schulz et al (1998) differentiate simple, aromatic, astringent and acrid types. ‘Proper tonics are bitters’ Cullen says. His appraisal both encompasses the applications we have met through the tradition above, other uses from the past to be covered below, and anticipate our modern conception of their bitter actions. On the common qualities he discusses, he offers his own experience, which does not always corroborate the general claim. The ‘common qualities’ include: 1. action on the stomach; increasing appetite for food and promoting digestion of it, the improvement depending upon an increase in tone of the muscular fibres, hence ‘restoring tone to that organ'; correcting acidity and flatulence, checking fermentation, and relieving the stomach from abundant mucus or phlegm. This improved state, communicated to other parts of the system improve Read more […]

Wormwood: External Use

It is remarkable how many instances are found through the tradition of external application of herbs, through a variety of inventive means, for more internal conditions; a mode of treating that is far less practised today; and wormwood has been no exception. For the more usual topical applications for skin and joints, for example, wormwood is not normally encountered among the more frequent recommendations. Bartram records an infusion of 1 oz to a pint applied to muscles in rheumatic pain, and Menzies-Trull refers to a number of external applications, but otherwise mention is rare. Given, however, wormwood’s strong gastrointestinal reputation, it is interesting to note Wood’s appraisal of the herb as having survived in modern American herbalism largely as a medicine for the muscular and skeletal system. He cites Cook’s enthusiastic recommendation of it as ‘a good fomentation in sprains, rheumatic and other sub-acute difficulties about the joints; and in bruises and local contusions/congestions’. Cullen records the reputation of bitters, especially aromatic bitters, in general as cleansing and healing foul ulcers, including checking of the progress of gangrene, and in fomentations for discussing tumours. The further Read more […]

Kaempferia galanga

Kaempferia galanga L. (Zingiberaceae) Galangal, Sand Ginger, Aromatic Ginger, Kencur, Cutcherry or Resurrection Lily Kaempferia galanga L. is a small herb with short underground stems. Leaves are usually in pairs, oval, glabrous, pointed, 6-15 cm long, and spread out above ground with prominent veins. Flowers are in short stalked spikes. The corolla is white or pinkish, with violet spotted lip. Origin Native to tropical Asia. Phytoconstituents Ethyl cinnamate, 1,8-cineole, δ-3-carene, alpha-pinene, camphene, borneol, cyene, alpha-terpineol, alpha-gurjunene, germacrenes, cadinenes, caryophyllenes and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses The whole plant is used as a postpartum protective medicine, treatment for stomachache, diarrhoea, dysentery, treatment for rheumatism, swellings, fever, coughs, asthma and as a tonic/lotion. In Malaya, the leaves and rhizomes are chewed to stop cough. In Indonesia, it is used for abdominal pain, for swelling and muscular rheumatism. In the Philippines, the rhizome is used for boils, chills, dyspepsia, headache and malaria. The Indians also use the rhizomes as lotions, poultices for fever, rheumatism, sore eyes, sore throat and swellings. The rhizomes are stimulant, used to treat Read more […]

Rue In Classical Medicine

Dioscorides lists over a dozen external uses of rue. The herb infused into olive oil by cooking and applied to the abdomen helps inflations of the colon downwards and of the uterus, while the herb ground up with honey and applied to the perineum, ‘from the genitalia to the anus’, relieves uterine suffocation. A similar application is made to joints to relieve pain, while mixed with figs it disperses oedema. As a plaster with barley groats, it assuages severe eye pains and in combination with rose ointment and vinegar it is rubbed onto the head in cases of headache. Ground and inserted into the nostrils, it can stop nosebleeds; plastered on with the leaves of sweet bay, it helps inflammation of the testicles or with a cerate (wax) of myrtle it remedies their pustules. Rubbed on with salt and pepper, it treats dull-white leprosy, which is either vitiligo or psoriasis, and both raised and flat warts. Applied with honey and alum it is good for lichen-like eruptions of the skin. The fresh juice, warmed in a pomegranate shell and instilled, combats earache or mixed with the juice of fennel and honey then smeared on is a remedy for dim-sightedness. Another mixture with vinegar, white lead and rose ointment treats erysipelas, Read more […]